Wise Men Say: Keep these two players and Sunderland have chance to bounce back
As pleasing as it was to finally get a win, just our second of 2017, Saturday's 2-0 victory at Hull was also a stark reminder of the irritants and frustrations that have gone before.
Rather than greet Billy Jones’ opener with a celebration, it was more of a smile and a tut. A shake of the head. A roll of the eyes. Typical Sunderland.
Just as we’d gone to Stamford Bridge a few years back to break Jose Mourinho’s fine home record, it was another Portuguese on the receiving end this time.
However, on this occasion, it doesn’t count for anything on paper.
Obviously, it’s fantastic that our superb travelling support get the opportunity to return home with a bit if a smile on their faces.
They’ve endured the trials and tribulations of this season and deserve a little something back.
It was strangely easy for Sunderland. Hull’s nerves got the better of them and they never got to grips with the task in hand. As anxiety grew in the stadium, I felt we’d capitalise.
I do have a degree of sympathy for Hull’s support.
They’ve been through the wringer on and off the pitch in recent times. As we often say ourselves, it’s the hope I can’t stand.
Hull probably expected to go and put a five-point cushion between themselves and Swansea come full-time. Instead they were left wondering how a dreadful side had done the double over them, conceding five goals in the process and scoring zero. They’ll be devastated.
Jordan Pickford was once again superb. My sizeable gut tells me his departure may not be as cut and dried as some expect it to be.
I’ve posed the question before, but, should we sell him for big bucks, will the players brought in win us as many points as he will? I don’t think so.
We should be looking to build a team around the few young, talented players on our books. Alongside Pickford, I’d include Didier Ndong.
Didi has impressed during his first season in the Premier League and should we hang on to him this summer, I firmly believe he’ll be one of the best midfielders in the Championship – if not the best.
There’s an opportunity to nurture him in the second tier, and hopefully he can be a driving factor towards a swift return to the top flight.
He’ll learn a lot more in the next 18 months and I think he’s only going to get better. He reminds me a great deal of Jordan Henderson at times, give or take the odd attribute.
We’re going to need the heart, the drive, the mentality, the composure and the quality of players like Pickford and Ndong next season if we’re to stand any chance of a first-time return to the Premier League.
Whilst some might see players like them as bargaining chips, I see them as key players in a good season next year.
In a season where we’ve been so consistently weak, we need to set the standard for the coming months and show a bit of strength.
* The Wise Men Say podcast is available from every Monday, with SAFC debate from a variety of guests and post-match reaction from David Moyes. You can stream it direct from wisemensay.co.uk or subscribe to it on iTunes